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Symphony Conductor-Dancer

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I just returned from a very fine performance of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. One thing that really got my attention was the conducting of John Mauceri. Toward the end of a full length performance of Ravel's Bolero (about 18 minutes long), I looked over at John Mauceri and was really enjoying the way that he was moving himself around.

I would call it 'Dancing'.

I attend very few symphonic performances and am not really familiar with different conductor's physical styles. I have seen a bit of Bernstein and Gergiev, who I guess are considered two of the more colorful conductors, but I haven't viewed much more. They seem to have a lot of facial expression, arm and head movement.

John Mauceri carried it a step beyond. I would say he was dancing. He was almost strutting around the platform in the manner of a flamenco dancer. Bolero is supposed to be based on Cuban motifs, but the flamenco look here seemed to work.

I wouldn't know what kind of dance to describe it as, but possibly because of the turning and use of his entire body, with some kind of flamenco like foot gestures, I would be inclined to call it dance.

His entire body moved to the music and expressed in very definite body gestures his involvement with the music. His gestures I would describe as being as being very expressive with a kind of powerful restraint. His arm movements were charged with energy as was the rest of his body, but the range of movements was constrained. Again I would call it dancing and very expressive dancing, probably falling more into the category of modern expressive dance than anything else.

I thought it was thoroughly enjoyable and not over the top. It was direct and pure expression of what he was intensely feeling. In addition he was directing a nearly 100 piece orchestra communicating with the musicians by using his entire body including footwork.

If anyone else has seen conductors do similar things I would love to hear about them.

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In my experience it isn't always a good thing. The Baroque specialist Ivars Taurins, or "Marionette Boy," as I like to call him, spends a lot of time prancing around on the podium and I have to struggle mightily not to giggle when he's conducting. He's very energetic and enthusiastic but extremely awkward. I suppose I wouldn't object to a conductor whose movements were beautiful to look at.

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Thanks volcanohunter for your comments and reference. I did find John Mauceri's movements not to be artistically refined, but still powerfully expressive and 'handsomely' done. Also interesting is could this be some kind of distinct dance form with all the elements considered--both the leading and the responding to the music and the musicians. There could be some relation here to the New Orleans marching jazz band leaders or the Philadelphia Mummer band leaders, but I see John Mauceri's efforts here as being much more 'refined'.

I also asked myself if I could visualize him doing this solo as a pure dance. I think that I could in the same manner that I could visualize a solo flamenco dancer or a drama oriented dancer.

[some spelling errors later corrected]

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There could be some relation here to the New Orleans marching jazz band leaders or the Philadelphia Mummer band leaders

In some of his films, notably Follow the Fleet and Second Chorus, Fred Astaire begins a number as band leader and turns into solo dancer as the music progresses. Of course, I'd never expect a conductor to be able to tap like Fred Astaire, but some music is so danceable that it's hard not to break into a dance.

This doesn't concern conductors directly, but I attended a new music festival during which a clarinetist danced. He wasn't a trained dancer, but the choreography had obviously been rehearsed thoroughly. Unfortunately, the choreographer wasn't credited in the program. I have to admit that it made the atonal clarinet concerto much easier to sit through.

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